“It is the prerogative and charm of beauty to win hearts.”
–Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote
It’s an ugly time right now. Especially in the public discourse in the land in which I live. Politicized and polarized, public discourse has devolved into the polemical napalm of give-no-inch, take-no-prisoners, burn-it-all-down flaming rhetoric. Ugly “Us versus Them” ideology goosesteps across the American stage. Hysterical screams of fear-infused hatred are heard in this nation of immigrants.
Deport ’em all!
Build a wall!
Don’t tread on me!
I was in New York last week and saw the Statue of Liberty. I think she had a tear in her eye…or maybe it was just in my eye. The tired and poor, the wretched refuse, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free…are basically given the finger these days. For the sake of honesty maybe it’s time to commission a new statue.
Are we entering a dark age where the only thing we can build is a wall and where nothing is sacred but a gun? I wonder.
Yet it’s not for America that my heart is most heavy these days, but for the church. Are we just a religious version of our ugly age or can we actually be the alternative counterculture of Christ? Can we develop enough spiritual maturity to be a Christlike community of radical love and mercy? We must! If not, we will become as superfluous as a Blockbuster video rental store…and suffer the same fate.
If the church in America is to recover any relevance, it won’t be through a public emphasis on the true (though there is a place for Christian apologetics), and it won’t be through a public emphasis on the good (though there is a place for Christian ethics), but through a public emphasis on the long-neglected third prime virtue — the beautiful. What we desperately need is a renaissance of Christian aesthetics. In a post-Christian culture adverse to truth claims and suspicious of assertions to a superior morality, it is still the prerogative and charm of beauty to win hearts. If we can be so formed in Christ that we begin to live beautiful lives, we will gain a new hearing; if not, we deserve to be ignored.